The vision of a centre for arts and culture in downtown London, Ontario has a long history that has been shared by many Londoners. In August 1996, Lawrence Karn, Deborah Bray and John White and a group of arts and business people met to discuss the concept of a community arts centre with a specific emphasis on the role it could play in rejuvenating the city’s downtown core. The ARTS Project (TAP) was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1999 and held its first annual general meeting in January 2000.
In April 2003, the TAP purchased a historic building – formerly the Roland Hill Shoe Store and as back as far as 1870, a hotel, located downtown at 203 Dundas St. The first major retrofit was a 100-seat black box theatre, which addressed the need for fostering emerging playwrights, actors, directors and musicians. The creation of multi-use workshop areas and several private artist studios was followed by the restoration of the facade with the help of Downtown London and the City of London.
In 2008, the ARTS Project was struggling and Bruce Johnson was recruited to help. Johnson became the Board Chair and for three years until his sudden death in November 2010, he worked both as chair and a full-time volunteer to oversee significant renovations and build a new and vibrant board of directors. In 2009, two new renovated galleries, main floor washrooms, wheel-chair access to the theatre and additional artist studio space on the third floor was added. This doubled the artist studios to eleven and created a unique classroom space that still maintains some of the historical features of the building.
Because of visionary Londoners like Johnson, TAP has become one of the leading and innovative arts venues in London. While the organization’s focus has evolved over its history, it continues to be an incubator for emerging visual and performing arts. TAP attracts new audiences through specific programming, some of it geared towards fostering an appreciation for a variety of different art forms in the community that would otherwise not exist.
With substantial growth in the number of members, artists and events, TAP is succeeding in becoming an integral component to art and the community in a multitude of disciplines.